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Q: We don't think we can afford a private school, but the school in my area only scored a "4" on the 2001 API Report. All of the other schools close to me are closed to students out of their area. Will my son do okay in the public school? What can I do to help him achieve and to make sure he doesn't hang out with the wrong kids? He is in a private preschool now, and will start kindergarten in September. Please help!
A: Call to arrange a visit at the school to which your son is assigned for next year. Observe the classrooms (not just kindergarten) and see what is going on there. Is there work done by the students posted on the walls? Are the children engaged in creative (not just worksheet) learning?
Talk with the principal, the school counselor, and some teachers to find out the philosophy of the school and what they are doing there on a daily basis. Although test scores give you information about a school, there is more to what goes on there every day than what the test scores show.
After your visit, write a letter to the principal. Tell him or her about your son and the kind of teacher you would like for him to have. Explain the areas in which he is strong, and request a teacher who will work with him in those areas as well as encourage him in others. Also talk about the kind of person with whom your son works best -- that may be a teacher who is kind and caring, or structured and consistent, or a combination of characteristics. Your son might end up in a wonderful classroom without your letter, but writing a letter will help make sure that that happens.
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Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.